The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will begin a two-week long intensive farm inspection campaign on Tuesday, May 8, with approximately 200 inspections focusing on safe working with vehicles and machinery.
Farm vehicles and machinery are the main cause of serious and fatal accidents on Irish farms. Over the last 10 years, half of all fatal farm accidents involved vehicles (30 per cent) and machinery (20 per cent). Farm vehicles are generally defined as tractors or quad bikes. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in the number of fatalities involving quad bikes, with 12 reported in the past 10 years, and four alone in 2017.
According to the HSA, most accidents with farm vehicles or machinery will involve at least one of the following: poor planning; operator error; lack of training; and inadequate maintenance of vehicle or machine. The key message during this campaign is that preparation is the key to working safely, particularly during busy periods such as the silage season. This involves looking at the suitability of operators, the machinery and how the work is to be done.
On a practical level the HSA are asking farmers to consider the following:
Are handbrakes or parking brakes working on all tractors and machinery?
Are cabs and doors maintained in working order?
Are tractor mirrors set and maintained correctly (not cracked or twisted)?
Has the driver ever received formal driver training for tractor or quad bike use?
Pat Griffin, senior inspector for agriculture and forestry safety at the HSA says that good planning and control can prevent serious accidents and fatalities from occurring: “All farmers should organise their work in a way that is efficient and safe. This means having rules in place in relation to who uses which vehicle or machine, establishing one way systems, safe routes within fields and in and out of gates, care when reversing and who is in overall charge of the work. The person in overall charge must be realistic about how much work can be done and how many hours operators can safely work.”